Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Another Sarah--but we ARE big fans of this one!

Today is my daughter Sarah's 30th birthday.   I am not sure how 30 years have gone by.  Wasn't she just a tiny newborn in my arms?  Time flies.  You turn around and they are grown up.  Insert any relevant cliche here.  All of them seem to be true.  

We wish you a very happy birthday, Sarah, and wish we could be there to help you celebrate.  You are a wonderful daughter, a fabulous mom, and an amazing person with many talents and a beautiful heart.   We love you and miss you!

Monday, July 27, 2009

No More Pallin' around with the Palins. Resignation Celebration Sunday!

We are not Sarah Palin fans.   Honestly, before she was tapped to be the VP candidate for the Republicans, we were probably pretty neutral about her.   Once she entered that limelight, however, our opinions quickly changed. The reasons are way too numerous to sour my post about something HAPPY--a party to celebrate her resignation!  Across the state, it sounds like there were similar gatherings, sometimes called "screen door" parties--as in "don't let the screen door hit you...."   Many Alaskans have had enough of Sarah.  

I was hoping we could have an outdoor party since our house is so small.  It was not to be--rainy, windy, foggy yesterday, so we moved inside and had a good time anyway.   Above, Donna, Melanie, Judi and Matt are working diligently on their Palin Trivia Quiz.

Rosie, Donna, Melanie and Judi

Willie and his lovely girls Karen and Wilma visiting from the Philippines.

Rich is back in the kitchen, where he remained most of the evening, fixing his delicious halibut tacos to rave reviews from all.    He also mixed up a white wine peach/mango sangria to go with the tacos.  There's Char, and Haleigh who's home from college for the summer.

Poor Eric didn't even get a seat.  He's also home from college.  Eric and Haleigh both filled us in on life in New York City where they are attending separate colleges and gaining lots of wonderful experiences.  We are proud of them!

Kristine and Max, who fell asleep in the car on the way over and slept through the whole shindig.  She had to wake him up to go home!  Sweet little guy.  He probably enjoyed sleeping more and would have been bored with the political discussion anyway.  

I wanted to make a game of "pin the lips on the pit bull" but didn't get it done.  Darn, wouldn't that have been a hoot?   Here are a few questions from the trivia quiz:  

Name all of Sarah's children
Name Bristol's baby daddy
Todd is known as the "First ______"
Sarah is known to read which magazines and newspapers?
Sarah told which other female candidate to suck it up and quit whining?
Sarah can see __________ from her house.
Those were the easy ones.    :)

Logan and Monica also stopped by after working on their scuba diving certification.  These two are heading for Kenya to work in an orphanage soon.  I love all of these committed young people.  Definitely gives me hope for the future!

Sorry I am blocking this photo as I move into the kitchen but I wanted to show Lynn, in the purple, who won the trivia contest.   She was pretty cutthroat and did not want anyone cheating off her paper.  I wonder how she was in high school.  Congrats, Lynn, you are a Palin expert!   

As you can see, we need a bigger house.  We rarely have people over because there is no room!  In fact, other than book club, I think this is the first real gathering we've had since our wedding reception four and a half years ago.  I think we need to petition Unisea for a larger dwelling, don't you?

You can always count on lots of good food at a potluck and this was no exception.   Fruit, cheese, dips, tabouleh, bread, spreads and a fabulous kahlua cake rounded out the selections.   

I had a great time making a playlist of songs appropriate for the occasion, including:
It's All Over Now, Baby Blue
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Road to Nowhere
Communication Breakdown
Bye, Bye, Blackbird
A Change Would do You Good
You're So Vain
Get on Your Boots
and many more--in fact, four hours worth!   Who would have thought?!   We really didn't pay much attention to them since we were having more fun talking but I am really proud of my extensive list and am listening to it right now as I am posting.    What a dork, I know.

So, farewell to Ms. Palin and we look forward to seeing what's next.  A talk show on Fox?  A reality show?(You know I already suggested "Pallin' Around with the Palins" months ago).  Stirring up hate of anyone not from the "real" parts of our country as she headlines right wing rallies all over the US?  Oh, yeah, and there's that possible Presidential bid.   I kinda hope she does run.  It would keep all of the comedians in business.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday and all's well

It's that time of year when the eagles are hanging out looking for fish.  I came home today and they were in the yard, just sitting there.  Not scared of me at all, and in fact, posed for some photos.

This one is perched on the Cat Clubhouse, while Ajax chills in a deck chair.  I guess they worked out an arrangement.  Ajax was not stalking the bird and the bird was not clicking its beak at Ajax.  Meanwhile, Kali was under the deck, keeping both eyes on the scene from a distance.

We did try to get the cats to come in the house but they are brave little souls and think they can weather any sort of bird attack.  I hope we don't have to find out if that is true or not.

We've had some big rains and a little bit of sunshine this week.  I am about to go to the deck barbeque at the hotel and I think I will need my jacket, or at least we have to make sure the big outside deck heaters are on! Funny, huh?   
Thanks to a big group effort with my mom, my sister and me, we managed to get my sister's plane ticket rearranged and two mileage tickets for my niece Alana and nephew Eli to come with her to Unalaska. Yes! They will arrive on August 12 and stay for a week.    Get ready for your Alaskan adventure!

I finished reading an excellent book called King Leopold's Ghost, about the Belgian king's horrific treatment of people in the Congo and the individuals who stood up against him. I had no idea about this history.  And I will never understand how some people can treat others so terribly.  I would love to get inside their heads and figure out their thinking.  It's one of the best books I've read in a long time--go get it!  :)   I am not doing too well on the 100 book challenge but trying to catch up lately.

We're having a little party on Sunday evening but I can't reveal the details just yet.   Happy weekend, everyone!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Farewell to a friend

I am not keeping up with posting very well since getting back home.  Some days I just don't know what to write about and some days I know what I want to write about but don't really know how.  This is one of those.  Today I learned from my friend Karen that our friend Rudene died in Texas on Friday.  Rudene was one of those quiet, calm people who spent more of her time listening and helping behind the scenes than seeking the limelight or trying to get attention for herself.  When I moved back to Abilene in 1981, she was my first friend as I took a social work job alongside her at the State School, where she taught me the ropes.  We have been friends ever since, even though I went on to another job and she decided to stay home and raise her family, which grew to five children, and then had other jobs herself.   We were not the kind of friends who hung out on a regular basis but we always enjoyed getting together for lunch and then later with our "girls' night out" group, which met almost religiously once a month for dinner and conversation.   Rudene was someone who never spoke ill of anyone else and even when the rest of us were complaining about one thing or another, she would just sit there and smile and offer encouragement without joining the bitching.  On the other hand, she could tell some amusing stories, usually making fun of herself. Our group of friends went through marriages, births, raising kids, graduations, weddings, worries and traumas and joys and celebrations together.  We took our babies to the zoo in their strollers and twenty-something years later, we helped at their weddings.  If she was needed for anything, Rudene was always there with a smile and a quiet confidence that everything would be all right.

When she was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple of years ago, she hardly said a word about it to the rest of us.  If we asked, she always said she was "fine," "feeling okay," "doing great," even as she lost her hair and became thinner and paler.  She wouldn't miss one of those monthly dinners if she could possibly be there.   After I moved to Alaska, I had to keep track of her through other friends because she was not one to get on the internet, email or call.  I regret now that I didn't send her more little notes and cards or phone her up once in awhile just to say hi and see how she was doing.  Every trip back to Abilene, we would get our girls' group back together for dinner and I found out (not through her, of course) that she had a recurrence of her cancer.  When I saw her in May, she was wearing a wig again and looked tired and pale.  Still, she was upbeat and funny and didn't let on that anything could be wrong.  I honestly thought she was someone who could beat it and we would look back years from now and talk about how sick she'd been and how she'd come through it just fine.  Amazingly, she went to work on Thursday, then her husband took her to the hospital on Friday and she died before our friends could even get over there to see her.   That's just so Rudene.  She would never shirk any responsibility she'd taken on, even if she was at death's door.  I can't imagine being that dedicated or strong.  I'd rather lie in my bed and let everyone come over and wait on me and feel sorry for me and let me feel sorry for myself.  

When Karen and I were talking today, she said, "I just don't want to have to have a world without Rudene in it."  I feel the same way.   We didn't have to see her every day to feel her presence and her spirit and to be touched by her kindness and thoughtfulness.  I didn't even know till today that she volunteered in her church's children's ministry for 30 years.  Imagine how many children and families received the blessing of her caring heart.  She was not rich, famous, or powerful but her life had meaning and grace and she made the world a much, much better place.  I look around at our superficial society and I can easily see that this woman knew what was important.  I hope she was ready to leave this world and I hope she was at peace when she let go of this life.  I am sad that I didn't get to see her one more time and tell her how much she meant to me.  

She was young, 57.   At least that feels young to me now that I am 55.  :)   I suppose we are reaching the place where we are starting to lose people our own age, which seems so unreal.   Rich's brother George passed away a little over a month ago, and we have had some sudden deaths in Unalaska in the last few weeks.  I feel surrounded by death all of a sudden.  It is said that these experiences bring up our own mortality and make us think about how we are spending our days, how we are living our lives. And yet it is so hard to make changes and get out of our patterns, even if we know we need to do things differently.  I have never been especially good at that "live life to the fullest, as if each day is your last" kind of thing.  I'm a little bit lazy and a little bit too comfortable in my routine.  But it is certainly on my mind.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


It's my favorite time of year in Unalaska.  The hills are getting greener and greener by the day, wildflowers are blooming all over the island,  the sun is shining (sometimes) and (hat and gloves to the contrary),  it is 'warm' outside.    Rich and I both went right back to work on Thursday after arriving home on Wednesday evening.  He had a fancy dinner to do and I was running a little behind on organizing our next fun event for Channel 8.   Have you ever seen the show "Cash Cab," where taxi passengers answer trivia questions for money?  We are doing our own version called "Unalaska Prize Ride" on July 18 so I spent Thursday and Friday making phone calls and driving around town to get sponsors and prizes for the show.  As always, Unalaska businesses are very generous and it didn't take long to have a load of goodies to give away.  If you are a local, give us a call or flag us down on the 18th and let's see how smart you are!

Friday evening we went to the deck barbeque at the hotel.   Wednesday night Seafood Buffet is amazing, the Sunday Brunch is fabulous, but my real favorite is the deck barbeque every Friday night during the summer.  There's always a great selection of food and it's fun to sit outside with a group of friends and enjoy the evening.   Which is what we did.

We are back on our healthy kick, eating much less and only good-for-us food.   We both turned 55 on vacation, which means we are entitled to use the Community Center for nothing.  FREE!  I was so excited that I went right over on Friday, got my ID, and walked the track for 45 minutes.   :)    Saturday, Rich worked for several hours and then we decided to take a hike since it was a pretty day.   We drove out up the pass and hiked part of the river valley trail to the Peace of Mind cabin, though we did not have time to go all the way down.   Still, we got a nice little workout to get us back on track.   Driving the rest of the way around the pass, Rich caught this eagle flying over the hill.

One minute the fog was hiding everything from view, and the next minute a nice little window opened up.

Otherwise, we're just catching up on errands and chores and getting back into the routine.  My sister won a ticket to come and visit (you might remember Dan Young having a contest on his blog months ago) and will be spending a week with us in August.   Can't wait!  My niece and nephew want to come with her so I have been trying to work on mileage or companion fare tickets for them.  Of course, it is always WAY too complicated to get tickets to Unalaska.   I couldn't get anything to come together on the Alaska Air website last night.  Today I called AK Air and did NOT get anyone helpful.   So frustrating.   But tomorrow is another day and I know we can work it out eventually.   Think positive thoughts for us!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Finishing up Vacation

These are out of order and some of our photos are missing due to the hard drive tragedy but here's a little bit more of vacation and then I will be done with it!  The first pix are of Charleston.  It was a beautiful city and we enjoyed getting out in the sunshine.  The old homes were gorgeous, as was the landscaping.   Charleston seemed like the real "south" to me and had that old southern charm about it.  

I love old cemeteries.

We always try to stay downtown if possible so we can be in the middle of all the activity and use our feet or public transit instead of driving.   This is the Mills House, which we liked so much that we extended our stay an extra day.  (Thank you again, priceline.com).

The courtyard at the Mills House.

Then on to Charlotte, which had a totally different feel to it.  We again stayed downtown but Charlotte's downtown was a much more modern, business-oriented area.  Lots of banking and commerce going on.  It was pretty but did not have the charm of Charleston.   Everyone was so dressed up, too!  The temperature was hot but all of the bankers and businessmen were walking around in long sleeved shirts, ties, and sometimes jackets.  There was a road show of "Phantom of the Opera" being performed so we also saw lots of people dressed to the nines for the theater.  We stopped at an Italian cafe right on the sidewalk and I felt kind of out of place because all of the other women were in dresses and heels with their makeup and hair done to the max.  Ooops.  

Walking back to the hotel, we caught this little band playing on the corner.  They sounded great!

We had to find a laundromat after so many days of traveling.  

These were on the corner near our hotel.  There was also a small farmer's market right outside the hotel entrance one day, but it was the first day of the season and not too many booths were up.  

The view from our room, reflected.   We actually went to the pool a couple of times in Charlotte.  I even have a little bit of a tan.   :)

One of my former Community Center coworkers now lives outside Charlotte with his family.  I can't keep track of where everyone is so I was surprised to see a note from Frank on facebook saying "I live right near Charlotte--call me!"  We did get to have a chat and catch up with each other on the phone, but he was taking a class and we were heading out so we were not able to get together in person.   I need to be more organized but this road trip was really pretty random and we didn't even decide where we were going next till the night before we left sometimes.  :)   One of my other former coworkers, Shannon,  now lives in Arizona but was coming to Atlanta and staying at our hotel for a conference on the day we left there.  Crazy.   Missed her by a few hours.

Then on to Richmond, which is another beautiful and historic city.  We walked to the State Capitol and wandered the grounds. 

The Court of Appeals.  

Civil Rights Memorial on the Capitol grounds.  I love the quote from Thurgood Marshall.

Downtown Richmond on the 3rd and 4th of July was deserted!  We couldn't get over it.  The streets were empty and there was little activity anywhere we went.   On the morning of the 4th, we drove over to the Carytown district and had a nice little breakfast outdoors at Weezie's.   We had considered going to DC for the 4th of July but decided the road closures, traffic, and crowds would be a nightmare.  We then thought about spending the 4th in Atlantic City before going back to my Mom's, but many hotels were sold out and the rest were hundreds of dollars per night.  We were shocked.  I guess Atlantic City was a prime destination for the holiday...who would have known?   Since we were getting a little road weary anyway, we blew off plans for more travel and headed back to Mom's to visit and relax for the last few days.  

Another great vacation done.  We loved seeing everyone and I was especially happy for all the sunshine and warm weather.  :)  

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Back home and where do I begin?

Look how green our little island has become since we left on vacation.   I had to stop along the road today and catch a few photos of the lupines, the green hills, the low clouds and the clear water.  What a beautiful place!

A visiting vessel out by Alaska Ship Supply.

So our vacation is done and we missed more than a week without the computer.   I was going to try to condense but I just have too many photos I want to post so you will have to bear with me!   I will probably have to do two entries to get everything in.  Not only did we miss posting about vacation, we didn't get to talk about the SHOCKING Sarah Palin resignation!  You know there is more to that story.  Just can't wait to hear what it is.   :)   I don't think she got her basketball analogy quite right...she's not exactly "passing the ball," but more like slamming it onto the court in a little hissy fit and going home without finishing the game. 

After our road trip, we went back to my Mom's in New Jersey for a few more days.   My nieces never cashed their birthday checks so we did a little shopping.   Becca picked out a "my little pet shop" case

while Alex bought a Hannah Montana wig and microphone

which her dad and several others had to model.   How do you think my brother looks as a blonde?

Mom and I took a walk around her cute little town, Laurel Springs.  I have always liked all of the old homes there, though this turret house needs a paint job.

Formerly a bed and breakfast, but now a family lives here.

Laurel Lake, where my grandparents "courted."  The poet Walt Whitman spent summers in Laurel Springs and enjoyed taking mud baths here.   His summer home is preserved as a museum in town but we didn't make it over to take a pic.

More interesting homes

The weather was lovely and all the flowers were in bloom along Mom's street.

This was my grandparents' house, which was always our home base when we came back to visit between military assignments.   My mom grew up here, my grandparents lived here till they died, and my brother's family lived here for a couple of years.  I remember there were always lots of flower boxes on the porch, along with big rocking chairs where we would sit and watch the world go by.   We played "step ball" on these steps, caught fireflies in the back yard, picked Grandpop's juicy Jersey tomatoes out of his garden, helped Grandmom hang laundry on the clothesline, and read books on the window seats in the attic.   It makes me sad that strangers live in the house now and I know that my grandparents would not be happy with the condition it's in.  They were always so proud and meticulous about their house and their yard.  

The kids' dad and I rented this house when we lived in Laurel Springs for my two years of grad school at Rutgers. Sarah learned to walk here and Bonnie was born while we lived in this house.  We were only a block away from my grandparents and would walk down to see them regularly, eat lunch with them, and pick Grandpop up for walks with Sarah in her stroller.   The present owners have really done a lot of work and it looks completely different than when we were there.  I couldn't even see into the back yard because it's all landscaped with tall bushes and has a fence around it.  For years, we could still see the sticker we'd put in Sarah's bedroom window that would let the firefighters know there was a child in the room in case of an emergency.  :)  But times march on and that's not there any more, either.

Laurel Springs Elementary School where I attended part of 5th grade before moving to Germany.   When my sister and I attended, this was the girls' entrance.  Girls and boys were not allowed to mingle.  :)

This is the Philadelphia skyline as we drove back into the city to leave on Tuesday.   Our time in Jersey was pleasant and relaxing.  Rich and I made a pilgrimage to our teenage stomping grounds, saw the house his family lived in, drove along the back road behind McGuire AFB, observing that they are tearing down all of the base housing which made me think that any last little remnants of our existence there will now be eliminated.  Is this sounding like a melancholy post?!  Just thinking about the passage of time and how everything changes.   I know many people think of New Jersey as a very industrial state but we were surrounded by beautiful green fields, farmland and forests.  Unfortunately, the camera battery was dead.  :) We kept looking for people we knew but the closest we got was recognizing the name on a woman's tshirt when we stopped at a farmer's market to purchase peaches, plums and cherries.  We didn't have the nerve to ask her if she was married to a guy we went to high school with.  Someone pulled into my ex boyfriend's driveway right as we drove by but we didn't stop.  I guess we didn't want to seem too pitiful, stuck in the past.  LOL

Mom and I got pedicures, she made her world famous spaghetti, we went out for "frozen custard," we sat on the deck to eat breakfast and bask in the sunshine.  The weather was gorgeous the whole time.  

My cute nieces Alex and Becca riding along to the Amtrak station in Philly to see us off.

Philadelphia, near the train station

My adorable nephew Billy. 

My sister in law Patty, her kids, and my mom took us to Philly to catch the train to Newark for our flight(s) home.  We were told to be at Amtrak an hour ahead of time, so we dutifully showed up at 2 PM, obtained our tickets, and were instructed to wait in "line 3" to go to our train.  We lined up behind a bunch of other people and were sent down an escalator.  The man checking tickets got confused about the train numbers, but when I said, "Newark?" he replied "yes," and told us to go ahead.  We got downstairs and realized we were just going to be sitting on a bench next to the track for an hour.  Rich decided to go upstairs and look for magazines while I sat with all of our luggage (we thought we would be able to check our bags, but NO). Shortly, all of the people downstairs got on a train and left.  I was sitting there by myself when an Amtrak employee came over and asked "are you waiting for a train or something?"   Me: "Yes."  Amtrak guy: "What time?"  Me: "3."  Amtrak guy: "THREE?!!  Why are you down here?"  Me: "We just checked in and came down here to wait."  Amtrak guy:  "You are not supposed to be down here till it's time for your train."  Me: "I'm sorry, no one told us that and the guy at the line let us come down.  Do you want me to leave?  My  husband is upstairs...I don't think I can carry all this stuff myself."  Amtrak guy: "You are not supposed to be here.  Let me see your ticket."  Me:  "My husband has our tickets in his pocket.  Do I need to leave?"  Amtrak guy:  "Well, they  might change the track for your train.  I don't know."  Me: "Do I need to leave or not?"  Amtrak guy: "No, I guess you are all right."  Walks off.  No one else in sight. I try to read my magazine but I am a little nervous.  I call Rich on his cell phone.  Luckily he has it with him--I figured it would start ringing in the backpack in front of me.  :)  He says he is upstairs and they won't let him come back down because it's not time for our train yet.  LOL  

I read some magazines and call my kids while I sit there.  Eventually Rich talks a woman into letting him come back down but she tells him he's too early for his train and DON'T GET ON THAT TRAIN that's coming right now.   He says the people upstairs seemed very annoyed with him for not knowing what was expected.    However, no one explained anything to us and how were we to know that only one trainload of people at a time is allowed to go down to the tracks?!  The woman who gave us our tickets was extremely friendly but she sure did not give us all the info we needed.  How hard would it have been to explain the procedures?    Needless to say, after the experience Aidan and I had with Amtrak workers in Newark, this did not go over too well.  I am thinking Amtrak needs some customer service training for its employees.  

So eventually our train did come and we loaded up all of our luggage without any major issues; at least this train was not packed and there was room for our suitcases without having to struggle to squeeze them into a tiny space and thankfully no one bawled us out for not doing it right and no one gave us any pearls of wisdom like "see, there's always a solution."  LOL

It's only an hour train ride to Newark, where we caught the tram to our terminal and got on board Alaska Air bound for Seattle.  I had the dreaded middle seat and it was a very LOOOONNNNNNGGGGG 5 hour, 36 minute flight.   We had a little layover in Seattle and then off to Anchorage on an Alaska Air "combi," which carries freight in the front and passengers in the back.  I was in the middle seat again but at least it was only a 3 hour flight.  Then the real fun--arriving in Anchorage at 2:21 AM and having to sleep in the airport till our flight home the next morning.  Not my favorite thing to do but we did manage to get some rest, had breakfast, and went to Pen Air to wait.   I didn't know a soul there, which is highly unusual!  We had to stop in BOTH King Salmon and Cold Bay, something I have never done before.   Supposedly we were "heavy" and needed fuel but we also noted they were unloading cargo in Cold Bay.  After all that, our three hour flight turned into almost five.   Were we happy to be home?  You betcha.